We are all familiar with WFH, but what about WFHWK?
That's working-from-home-with-kids for the uninitiated. With the current situation forcing most of us to work at our jobs from home, it’s a constant struggle to stay productive, and sane. And even more so if you’re WFHWK.
Here are 10 tips on how to manage, multi-task, stay optimistic, not lose it, and make it to the finish line. Remember, we’re all #InThisTogether.
This is tip numero uno & the Golden Rule for this WFH cum HBL (Home Based Learning) period. We’re not at super-motivated-31st-December, the time for setting new year resolutions and deciding to be the best version of our parenting selves. Nor is it raring-to-go-1st-January. This is in-the-middle-of-nowhere-April, going on lost-track-of-my-fitness-goals-May. If you had planned to check off the items on your child’s HBL worksheets today but woke up to them being uncooperative, don’t lose heart. Allow your child to learn through play, and you to hone the soft skills of communicating, prioritising and channeling patience.
Same for work. Juggling conference calls, an exploding email inbox and tight deadlines is no mean feat; now do that on top of parenting your kids?! It’s hard we know. Go easy, so at least you live another day, to one day tell this unforgettable story.
Tip #2: Compartmentalise and set boundaries.
We’re referring to both your roles at the workplace and at home. Your children may be excited to see you home the entire day, and mistake weekdays to be something like the weekends, where you guys get to engage in the fun stuff. If you haven’t already, you have to let them know you’re working and won’t be able to engage them as and when they need you.
To manage their expectations, you can segregate blocks of time where you’ll be working and let them know you will only be available outside these blocks.
And when it’s time to play, play. Be present. Be engaged. Compartmentalising means you’re fully there at work when you’re supposed to be churning out that report, but also fully there at play when you’ve made a pact to bring out the Lego.
Tip #3: Prepare meals ahead.
Is it possible to freeze meals ahead of time, so you only need to quickly heat them up when it’s time to eat? Would it be more efficient if you try your hand at some of those one-pot recipes, which can save you time on food prep and washing up after?
Stock up on healthy snacks and drinks that are suitable for your children. If you’re uninspired, we hope this easy 10-step recipe for Bak Kut Teh will help.
If your children are old enough to help in the kitchen, it would make nice bonding moments to involve them, whether it's with the chopping and plating before the meal, or the washing up after. Maybe even baking some sweet treets with the little ones.
And not just in the kitchen, but with the chores too! Have them fold the laundry beside you as you work – major SCORE.
Knowing when your children are due for their daily afternoon nap is a very empowering piece of information in this period. Whether it’s for an hour or three, plan to complete the work that most requires your concentration during this time.
If you’ve got con calls to make, it would be good to inform your team that this is the time of the day that works best for you, and see if everyone’s able to accommodate (if they’ve got young kids too, their productive hour(s) will likely be the same as yours).
Tip #5: Make use of shower time (yours).
But we get it. This balancing act is tough, and in the struggle to manage work and home, you’re likely to forget about yourself. But self-care is not a luxury, it’s actually a pretty basic need. If your time in the shower is the only time in your entire day to have the space to yourself, take advantage of it.
Sing in the bath! Take a bit longer (and leave the kids to your spouse)! Indulge in your favourite shower products and break out the bottle of Aesop body scrub you’ve been saving for unprecedented times like this. Or how about a face mask from FRESH? Perfect reason to indulge in some online retail therapy.
Tip #6: Stick to a general routine, but leave room to adjust the details.
Like in a normal day in the office, a routine will probably be very helpful now. But this one will have to take your kids’ usual routines into consideration. A well-balanced one will probably mix your work time with their play time, learning time, rest time and meal time. Also discuss this with your spouse so you can take turns to take care of the children and both of you can get a couple of uninterrupted work hours with no kid barging in on your conference calls.
But manage your own expectations and allow room for changes. The kids basically need you 24/7 – somehow – and it only takes a diaper blowout or a tantrum to foil your otherwise perfect schedule. Deal with it, keep calm, and parent on.
Tip #7: Communicate. No harm overcommunicating.
With WFH arrangements now in place, it’s inevitable that we need to embrace videoconferencing and remote working technologies in the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams. We try our best to stay 100% efficient in this time, but it’s probably also true for most, if not all of us, that productivity levels have fallen as a whole. If you’re struggling in any way, communicate. To your bosses and colleagues, and to your own family members. The mediums and channels of communication may have changed for the time being as we stay home, but our intentions and motivations don’t have to. Speak your mind, and share your opinions. Be open when others do likewise. Perhaps it does take a crisis situation like the global one we are facing to highlight the importance of communication, with the common objective to make things work. And who knows? We could end up better and stronger for it.
Tip #8: Keep the children entertained. Be creative with what defines entertainment.
If you need the quiet headspace to work productively, you’ll need to come up with activities that will keep your children quietly occupied too. Be selective with the toys that you set aside for this purpose. If you’re up for it, how about building a cupboard fort or train so your little ones can play in it? Or have them watch an educational cartoon show?
On normal occasions you might be stricter with screen time or the amount of snacks you allow your children to ingest. But WFHWK isn’t a regular occurrence. Things are stressful enough, so if you’ve found yourself turning to these 'coping mechanisms' a bit more, let it go. Let them know these are 'special treats for a special time' that won’t last forever, and remind yourself that you’re still rocking this parenting gig. Leave no room for guilt; it’s important to maintain a positive mindset to go the distance – both at the work place and within the family.
Tip #10: Never feel bad to ask for help.
You live with your parents, but they offer no help with the babysitting while you’re screaming for help inside. They’ve bailed on you but it’s hard to justify why you’d still need their extra pairs of hands when you’re physically around. Right? Nope. Be sure to communicate (refer point #6) if you need help; they would be happy to get some clarity too. You can always show them how much you appreciate them by treating them to some good food in this circuit breaker season! We’ve got the perfect mouthwatering takeout deals for the entire family.